Against Violation of Human Rights

Arup Kumar Sen

In the context of impending arrests of two eminent civil/human rights activists and public intellectuals, Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha, very recently, historian Romila Thapar, economists Prabhat Patnak and Devaki Jain, sociologist Satish Deshpande and legal expert Maja Daruwala have written a letter to the Chief Justice of India, S. A. Bobde, seeking his urgent intervention into the matter. To put it in the words of the letter:

“Like all fair-minded citizens, we are shocked that the prosecution has not been held accountable to the spirit of the law…This is especially inhuman and incomprehensible at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening our overcrowded jails. We appeal to you to restore public confidence in our Constitution and the civil liberties that it guarantees to all citizens”. (See The Wire, April 12, 2020)

The gross violations of human/democratic rights in contemporary India remind us of the seminal observations made by Giorgeo Agamben in his celebrated book titled State of Exception (The University of Chicago Press, 2005):

…over the course of the twentieth century , we have been able to witness a paradoxical phenomenon that has been effectively defined as a “legal civil war”…In this sense, modern totalitarianism can be defined as the establishment, by means of the state of exception, of a legal civil war that allows for the physical elimination not only of political adversaries but of entire categories of citizens who for some reason cannot be integrated into the political system…the voluntary creation of a permanent state of emergency (though perhaps not declared in the technical sense) has become one of the essential practices of contemporary states, including so-called democratic ones.

Agamben’s observations offer us insights to understand what is happening in India now.

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Apr 17, 2020

Arup Sen

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